Everyday Stewardship: Fifth Sunday of Easter 2015

Posted on April 30, 2015 by - Everyday Stewardship

EucharistIn The Life of a Christian Steward: A Reflection on the Logic of Commitment, published by the International Catholic Stewardship Council, one reads, “To be most effective in service to God and humankind, Christian stewardship must stem from the liturgical worship in the Church. Here one finds the supernatural motive, the word of faith, and the grace necessary to get the job done.”

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Is Your Website Mobile Friendly?

Posted on April 29, 2015 by - Catholic Tech Talk

Mobile FriendlyWith more and more of the Internet traffic being on mobile devices, it is critically important that your church website be mobile friendly.  Remember, your website is a marketing and engagement tool.  It is how local Catholics, traveling Catholics, and anyone interested in finding a church can learn about your parish online.

 

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Transforming the World

Posted on April 29, 2015 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

For Sunday, May 3, 2015, 5th Sunday of Easter

May 3

Resurrection has much more relevance to life than just the promise of more to come when we die! When the first disciples met the risen Lord not only did their understanding of Christ’s purpose become clear, but the way they conducted earthly business became transformed as well. How they lived with one another, what they valued, how they prioritized their affairs, their level of confidence, and how they viewed their possessions all were altered by what they witnessed. It is almost like encountering the unconditional love of someone for the first time and realizing that you are forever changed. You cannot go back!

If we believe in the risen Christ with our whole mind, heart, and soul and have truly been transformed by the event we witnessed and celebrated just a few weeks ago, then we can never go back to the mundane or the secular. We have to change. This change affects not only how we view our death but how we view and value our daily earthly lives. The resurrection of Christ realigns and redirects our relationships: with God, ourselves, one another, and our environment.

We are used to examining and tweaking the more obvious relationships we share: God, self, and others. However, our relationship with our environment can sometimes be overlooked, avoided, or perceived as non-essential. After all, will what I do with my garbage every day have anything to say about whether I get to heaven? Probably not! But what we do with our garbage, our bank accounts, our possessions, and the “stuff” we accumulate and use every day for business or pleasure has plenty to say about our faith!

In truth, these are essentials that must factor into understanding the power of Resurrection transformation. Faith is not easy, even when preachers and witnesses call for our attention and try to focus us on truth. Our first reading this weekend demonstrates this very clearly when Saul arrived in Jerusalem. All were afraid of him—perhaps rightly so because of his reputation—and did not believe that he was a disciple. It took a while for them to become convinced. It takes a while for us to be convinced when truth has authentically taken root in an individual too. I am sure that Saul was as surprised by what the Resurrection’s transformative power did in his life as were those who saw him!

The preaching continued and the church was being built up. Those who believed “walked in fear of the Lord.” This was not the kind of fear that seeks to avoid punishment but the kind of fear that stems from a healthy reverence for and understanding of God’s providential presence and power. They were changed and now being guided and led to a new way of living!

God intends us to help in preserving things for future generations. Our faith calls us not only to a healthy reverence of God but for ourselves, each other, and our world. Psalm 22, a poetic prayer predating Christ’s resurrection, clearly shows us that this is God’s intention. “All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD…my descendants shall serve him. Let the coming generation be told of the LORD that they may proclaim to a people yet to be born the justice he has shown.” Our free will, one of our most precious gifts next to life and love itself, gives us the power to choose whether our earth will remain an abundant place of blessing. Through our neglect and lack of attention and concern, we can easily compromise God’s gift of earth’s blessing and diminish its ability to flourish for generations to come. Edward Humes, in his new book entitled Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash, provides some insights regarding things that are not always considered worthy of our attention. MSN offered a synopsis of his thoughts this past week that you may find interesting.

St. John admonished the early believers by calling them to “love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.” It seems that each generation is called to discover anew what this really means and to adapt and change its application based upon what presents itself at the time. It does not serve our understanding of resurrection’s power by limiting our understanding of its implications to a literal second-century interpretation. Life is different and the challenges to Gospel living are presenting themselves in new ways!

Does change and transformation ever come easy? Certainly not! Being pruned hurts! A vine that is pruned surely must experience some kind of trauma but certainly gives itself over to the action for the necessary good that will come. John’s Gospel reminds us that the word prunes us. This means that the Word who is God, a living and effective Word, is life-changing. It is not simply a spoken word that can be heard and yet unheeded. It is a living and effective word that when truly received, changes how we see and understand things. The resurrected Christ spoke this kind of word and it was this very word that entered the disciples’ hearts and changed them! It is this living and effective word that can enter us and change us as well.

Receiving and acting on this word grafts us to the very heart and life of God. It transforms us into his image and likeness and we begin to act as he acts. We see things, people, and life itself as God sees those things. What God intends, we intend. Even the simple and seemingly unimportant elements of life receive a new and refocused priority and purpose. And, yes, what we do with our garbage begins to matter because we suddenly see the connection between that small piece of paper or piece of plastic and the many other small pieces of paper and plastic that are being handled and used at that moment throughout God’s entire world!

It’s all about responsible stewardship! “By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”

Rev. Mark Suslenko

PRAYER

Dear mother earth, who day by day
unfolds rich blessing on our way,
O praise God! Alleluia!
The fruits and flowers that verdant grow,
let them his praise abundant show.
O praise God, O praise God,
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.
—St. Francis of Assisi

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Superheroes

Posted on April 27, 2015 by - Everyday Stewardship

SuperheroThe next Avengers movie is almost here and superheroes in film and on TV seem to be taking over.  As a person who sometimes still feels like a little kid at heart, I personally love it.

I was thinking there are people I encounter everyday that fit this description.  These people bear much resemblance to superheroes. Each new day brings new challenges and new villains to battle.

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Shepherding Is Not Peaceful

Posted on April 21, 2015 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

For Sunday, April 26, 2015, 4th Sunday of Easter

Shepherding

I was recently reading a book review by Horatio Clare on the UK’s The Telegraph website about a recently published title, The Shepherd’s Life, by James Rebanks. I can’t say I really know a lot about sheep and shepherds. A few years back, I was traveling the Australian countryside to work with parishes and I know I saw more sheep than I ever imagined I would in an entire lifetime. However, I didn’t see many shepherds, at least not matching the image I have in my mind.

Two things struck me when reading the article. The first was the statement, “Shepherding is not peaceful.” Psalm 23 has always seemed to me to be the peaceful psalm. Its reading consoles those who are troubled. It gives hope to people who are downtrodden. It eases the grief of those who have lost a loved one. The statement that shepherding is anything but peaceful gave me reason to pause. The writer went on to share about difficult weather, buzzards and crows attacking sheep, men screaming for order, and more. That is not what I think of when I see all those paintings of Jesus holding a snuggly little lamb on his shoulders and all the other snuggly little lambs as his feet seemingly wanting nothing other than hugs!

The second thing that struck me in the article was a paragraph about was how Rebanks portrays the work of a shepherd. Clare wrote:

The “clever, purposeful” ways in which men shear sheep, and the feeling of being “alive, necessary, needed” when the winter comes (Rebanks steps out into “that Brueghel painting of the snow and the crows”), the stress of haymaking and the fulfillment of a full barn, the sweet bounty of the meadows and their grasses, timothy, common bent, fescue and yellow rattle, all baled and stacked like the obedience to “a commandment from God”, are beautifully told.

It struck me that in the face of a professional experience that is not peaceful, the shepherd receives a divine mandate to create that which is not there: peace.

Then I got it! Psalm 23 gives almost a false sense of peace because that is what shepherds do. The paintings I have seen, and continue to hold in my mind, represent the point of view from the sheep. They do not see the critters that choose to attack them. They do not have enough intelligence to understand the disorder they create with their own natural movements. They are sheltered from the harshness of the weather by someone who leads them to safety. If the paintings reflected what really is happening, they would show chaos, fear, and danger, and then the shepherd whose job it is to protect them from those things.

When my own three children were young, I had a responsibility to protect them from the realities of the world. When you are first awakening to the world you do not need to know about the wars, the poverty, the suffering, and the sin in this place. You need to know love, patience, and comfort. When my children placed their heads on their pillows at night, fear needed to be the last things on their mind, even though the world can be a scary place.

Jesus calls himself the Good Shepherd in John 10 and he brings to us what cannot be truly found in this world: peace. Death could not even keep him from tending his flock. The risen Lord is alive so we can rest on his shoulders, so we can walk freely without being the prey of evil, and so we can have peace in the face of chaos.

But there are still those in our world that know all too well the peril that surrounds them. They have not had a chance to enter into the world with a naiveté that allows little ones to know what safety feels like. They do not know the peace of a shepherd because they have never seen one. Consider the experience of those growing up on the streets of the US, those who hear explosions all day and night in parts of Africa, the Middle East, and even parts of Europe. Consider the orphan who has never had a real hug, or the children who saw their parents murdered before their very eyes. Consider the children in hospitals who suffer from terminal illness and experience short lives of constant pain.

These are his lambs. They need Jesus. These are those who need real peace. And who will bring to them the Shepherd? Perhaps we should adopt a new moniker for ourselves in addition to the body of Christ: the body of the Shepherd. He is leading his flock this very day into places where weather, buzzards, and chaos threaten. If we have been with him for any real time, we know how peace feels. We can bring Jesus to these places. Consider the paintings of the Good Shepherd. Everyone deserves at some point to be the snuggly ones who just call out to be hugged.

Tracy Earl Welliver, MTS

PRAYER

A psalm of David.
I

The LORD is my shepherd;
there is nothing I lack.
In green pastures he makes me lie down;
to still waters he leads me;
he restores my soul.
He guides me along right paths
for the sake of his name.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff comfort me.

II

You set a table before me
in front of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Indeed, goodness and mercy will pursue me
all the days of my life;
I will dwell in the house of the LORD
for endless days.

 

—Psalm 23. Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

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Pope Francis and his growing litany of modern-day martyrs

Posted on April 21, 2015 by - Vibrant Parish Toolkit

By Elise Harris

Vatican City, Apr 21, 2015 / 09:54 am (CNA/EWTN News). – Amid a torrent of recent news reports on persecuted Christians, Pope Francis reflected on those killed for their faith and said that these modern “Stephens” suffer as the Church’s first martyr did.

“The Church today is a Church of martyrs: they suffer, they give their lives and we receive the blessing of God for their witness,” Francis told attendees of his April 21 Mass, held in the Vatican’s Saint Martha guesthouse.

“In these days how many Stephens there are in the world!” he said, referring to the first apostle who was killed for proclaiming Jesus Christ, and is hailed as the Church’s first martyr.

“Let us think of our brothers whose throats were slit on the beach in Libya; let’s think of the young boy who was burnt alive by his companions because he was a Christian,” Francis said.

He also brought to mind “those migrants thrown from their boat into the open sea by other migrants because they were Christians; let us think – just the day before yesterday – of those Ethiopians assassinated because they were Christians…and of many others.”

The Pope also called attention to the many Christians suffering silently inside jail cells just because of their faith in Jesus Christ.

Among them is Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi, who in 2010 was convicted of violating Pakistan’s strict blasphemy laws, an allegation she denies. Her husband and daughter traveled to Rome last week, where they met with Pope Francis and received his blessing during his Wednesday general audience.

In February the Islamic State released a video depicting the decapitation of 20 Coptic Christians after they had gone missing near the coastal city of Surt, also known as Sirte, in Libya.

On Sunday another video was released by social media accounts associated with the ISIS showing the mass executions of Ethiopian Christians in Libya.

In an April 20 message sent to Abuna Matthias, patriarch of the Ethiopian Tewahedo Orthodox Church, Francis offered condolences and said that “It makes no difference whether the victims are Catholic, Copt, Orthodox or Protestant…Their blood is one and the same in their confession of Christ!”

The Pope’s comment on the Christian boy burned alive referred to a 14-year-old Pakistani named Nouman Masih, who passed away April 15 after being set on fire by two unknown men. After inquiring about his religion, the men doused Masih in kerosene and set him alight.

April 16 marks the day that another tragedy on Francis’ list took place when 12 passengers on a migrant boat traveling from Libya to Italy were thrown overboard by fellow migrants for being Christians.

Reports indicate that a disagreement sparked among passengers on a rubber boat bound for Italy and carrying 105 people, during which 15 Muslim passengers threatened to abandon at sea the Christians, who came from Nigeria and Ghana, based on their faith.

After a fight broke out 12 of the Christians were thrown overboard to their deaths, while others survived the attack by resisting the drowning attempt and forming a human chain. The Italian coast guard has arrested 15 people in association with the attack.

In his homily Tuesday, Pope Francis said that “the true history of the Church is that of the Saints and the martyrs.”

He recalled how the Apostle Stephan had to deal with false witnesses and the anger of those accusing him.

Stephan, the Pope noted, reminded the elders and scribes how their ancestors had persecuted other prophets, and when he described his vision of the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God they didn’t want to hear it, so they threw him out of the city and stoned him.

“God’s Word is always rejected by some. God’s Word is inconvenient when you have a stone heart, when you have a pagan heart,” he said.

Francis noted how the whole history of Revelation is marked by the many martyrs who have been killed “for their faith and loyalty towards God’s Word, God’s Truth.”

He closed his homily by pointing out that there are also many “hidden martyrs,” who are the faithful men and women that listen to the voice of God and look for new ways to help their brothers and sisters love the Lord.

These people, the Pope said, are often viewed with suspicion, vilified and persecuted by the modern “Sanhedrin’s” who think they possess the truth.

What Happens Next?

Posted on April 20, 2015 by - Everyday Stewardship

Fork in the RoadWhen you place everything in God’s hands, you don’t always wonder what happens next.  What happens next is part of the miraculous journey of life. If it is a blessing, to God give the thanks.  If it is a challenge, accept it head-on and with the fortitude God gives you.  If it is a burden, let God help you carry it.

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